By identifying and utilising user motivations, digital professionals can more easily influence users towards the desired behaviours and, in conjunction with good old fashioned digital optimisation strategies like conversion rate optimisation and multivariant testing, can model and improve the outcomes of user behaviours. Depending on what you choose to prioritise, this can directly affect your bottom line by positively influencing purchasing decisions, user engagement and habits.

We’ve already discussed how traditional user personas are a thing of the past and how using a Limbic Map is a more effective guide to users’ likely interactions with your digital product but it’s certainly worth revisiting in the context of motivations. A user is not solely buying the product or service that you’re offering but is also making an unconscious decision around the way that buying from you makes them feel, the problem that it alleviates and how easy they find the process. We often forget about these motivations but they’re as key, often more, than the product or service you’re providing.

The Fogg Behaviour Model

Dr BJ Fogg, an American social scientist who is currently research associate at Stanford University and a noted behaviourist author, has developed the “Fogg Behaviour Model”. Using this Digital Psychologists have identified three key things which are required in order to produce a desired behaviour. These are: adequate motivation, adequate ability and a trigger. If you can introduce or reinforce any of these three factors you can improve the likelihood of inducing the desire action from the user.


When a user attempts to use your digital service, they do so because they have some motivation that has led them to you. This could be something as simple as boredom (Facebook), hunger (Deliveroo) or needing to get from one place to another (Uber). It could be that they require a tool to solve a more specific problem. For example, maybe the business they’re working for is struggling to keep track of all their client data so they need to find a solution. In reality these motivations could be highly motivating or they might not be. If your boss is on your back to sort out the client data issue, you’ll be far more motivated than if you’re looking for a quick diversion to alleviate your boredom!

What’s more is that emotional (and often highly personal) motivators like standing out from the crowd, displaying dominance, or fulfilling a fantasy can be incredibly motivating beyond immediate needs — but can often go unrecognised, even by the users’ themselves.


When users are motivated to take an action, the next stage they need to cross is ease of use and their ability to complete the desired action. When it comes to ability, we define actions by how easy or hard they are to complete with “easy to do” actions (such as single tap sign-in through social media) being more likely to be completed compared to “hard to do” actions (like a long and onerous registration process). In addition, users with a low motivation are far more likely to be put off by a “hard to do” action as they aren’t highly motivated enough to complete them.

By pre-empting the users’ desired end result and signposting the required actions to complete it, Digital Psychologists are able to overcome the ability hurdle. Being able to pre-empt what users will attempt to do is often driven by a mixture of analytics, experience and emotions.


A trigger is what causes the immediate need to solve the motivation. This could be that you’ve realised your shoes are beginning to look worn so you need to buy a new pair or it could be (going back to the previous example) that your boss has asked you to look into the issues around keeping track of user data. Both of these provide an immediate need that needs to be solved. It could also be that you’ve seen an advertisement for a product, which has influenced you to investigate further.

Example - Uber

A good example of a mobile app that uses these principles well is Uber. A user needs to get from one place to another (motivation), wants to get registered with Uber quickly in order to facilitate this (ability) and they need a taxi as soon as possible (trigger). Uber uses a process that can get a user from the start of the process to receiving a security confirmation text in as few as 4 taps, and after confirming the security text the user is taken immediately to the page that corresponds with the most likely motivator.

One improvement that could potentially be made to the user sign-up would be to introduce Social Sign In as the main method of sign-up in order to reduce the amount of data entry. Currently a user who goes along with Uber’s existing user flow needs to enter in their telephone number manually.

Example - Disney+

Another great example of this is the Disney+ application. Users who want to use this service may want to watch a specific show or may just want to sign up and add Disney+ to their current list of streaming services and. Both these cases, Disney+ provides quick access to sign-up and the front page provides immediate access to a search bar and most popular content.

Where Disney+ really shines is by providing triggers once you are using the service. Recognising that often the motivation to use a streaming service is either boredom or the release of a new piece of content, the Disney+ app times its push notifications in line with the typical time of day where users are less likely to be working or otherwise occupied and often use a new or popular piece of content as the catalyst to bring the user back into the application.

Once within the application they use a clean and sensible user interface based on common UX practices for streaming services to reduce the likelihood that the user will be unable to find what they’re looking for.

How to apply the Fogg Behaviour Model to your Mobile App or Website

It can take time to get used to applying the Fogg Behaviour Model to real life products but a good place to start is to remember that by finding and using the motivations of your users you should be able to find the objections they’re going to raise. Once you know what these objections are likely to be it’s possible to add pre-empted responses either in terms of UX (making it easier for users to do what you want them to do) or in content (answering these objections directly).